Congratulations, Joe!

By Joe Gilmartin
Posted: April 1, 2001

And now there are eight! The seven players in the Suns' Ring of Honor now have a trainer up their with them. In fact, THE trainer. Joe Proski, a.k.a. "The Prosk", a.k.a. "Magic Fingers," a.k.a. "Joe The Jet" (from his days as a high school halfback in Green Bay), officially joined Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Walter Davis, Connie Hawkins, Dick Van Arsdale, Paul Westphal and Kevin Johnson during halftime of the Suns-Bucks game.

It's not easy, and certainly not usual, for a trainer to become a legend in his own time. And it's even less usual for one to enter what amounts to a team's Hall of Fame. But The Prosk easily qualified on both counts. Just being the team's only trainer from Day One through Year 32 would likely have been enough in itself to qualify him for The Ring. But Joe was a lot more that. He was also known, among other things, as "The Glue" of the franchise. And during last night's ceremonies, Westphal referred to him as the "Face" of the franchise.

Longtime Suns trainer Joe Proski addresses the crowd at America West Arena Sunday night.
Carl Gooding/NBAE Photos

Westy, who got a long ovation when he was introduced, also totally a little story that best illustrated one of Prosk's many endearing qualities, his quirky sense of humor.

"When we got Kurt Rambis, he needed some ultrasound treatment for his ankle," said Westy, "so he went to Joe and said, 'Joe, can I get a sound treatment?' And Joe said, 'Yeah, go put your foot on a radio."

As is customary on such occasions, long time Suns' "Voice" Al McCoy, who more than likely will someday join his old traveling companion in The Rung, handled the emcee chores. And speakers included John Kerr, Proski's first coach both in Chicago and here, and Suns' Chairman/CEO/General Partner Jerry Colangelo. Guests included former Suns Dick Snyder, Jim Fox, Lamar Green, Neal Walk, Dennis Awtrey, Don Buse, Mike Bratz, Jeff Cook, Kyle Macy, Joel Kramer, Charles Pittman, Eddie Johnson, Mark West, Tim Kempton, Fat Lever, Rex Chapman, and last, but definitely not least (more like most, actually) Ruth Dryjanski, who came to Phoenix with Proski and Colangelo, and has served as the latter's executive secretary ever since.

Family members on hand included wife, Jan, daughters Jolene and Jori, his mother, Mrs. Lucille Proski, his sister Janet and her husband, Kurt Detry, and his brother, Jackson.

Gifts included year's supply of kielbasa from Schreiner's Sausage in Joe's beloved Green Bay, a custom made NBA Trainer's Card, a basketball autographed by all the players and coaches on hand, and finally, for the noted collector off of vintage vehicles, a l998 Harley Davidson limited edition 95th anniversary commemorative 1200 Sportster, one of only 3,000 ever manufactured, plus a custom-designed leather Phoenix Suns jacket to keep him warm when he's breezing along.

Before making the cycle presentation, Colangelo said, "Joe, it's quite an honor to welcome back so many former Suns and NBA greats to this great celebration. And they came to honor you for your years as a trainer, psychologist, consultant, and friend." And so they did.

Following that presentation Proski's plaque up in The Ring was officially unveiled to the accompaniment of a long and obviously heartfelt standing ovation.

"This is awesome," said Joe. "Just awesome. It's unbelievable to be in The Ring of Honor with all these great players, but also great people. And I want to thank everybody who helped me all these years, and especially three ladies, "my wife of 36 years, Jan, my mom, and Ruthie."

None of the foregoing could have happened to a nicer or more deserving guy.